October has become the month of Horror film watching, it might have been already for everyone else but I’m catching up! With such a wide variety of films and topics available that come under the horror banner I thought that I would take a look at some things that horror films have ruined forever more and are never going to be the same again.
First up is……. the sea
It doesn’t matter that I live in a cold country, surrounded by cold water that is in no way going to be infested by carnivorous sharks, but put me into the sea in water deep enough to start me thinking “I have no idea what is going on under my feet” and that’s it: Heart rate rising, panic starts to set in and is usually followed up with a quick, but controlled (you don’t want to be thrashing around in the sea, that’s what attracts sharks don’t you know?) swim back to the shore or at least shallow enough to stand up in. And we all know what film we have to thank for this fear: Jaws.
Put people into water and turn on John Williams’ score and just watch as they get back out again. It has pervaded the psyche and those two notes are all it takes to put people on edge! Nothing else needed, Jaws can stand on its own and scare people without backup.
Next up…… TV Sets
OK, so TV sets in and of themselves aren’t too spooky or anything to be scared of, however, Poltergeist used the TV set as a conduit for spooks to talk through (and Carole-Ann’s voice coming out of the TV still gives me the shivers) and to escape their plane of existence and enter the living world to much chaos. On top of this the TV set is again a conduit, in two ways from Ringu/The Ring: Firstly as you watch the messed up video tape and then as *spoiler warning* Sadako/Samara ever so freakily comes out through the TV to kill whoever watched the tape in a cruel and gruesome way *end of spoiler warning*.
Inert goggleboxes just sitting in our room? Not on your life, these are instruments of death and destruction through which evil spirits can come and get you at will!!
Third we have………. clowns
I don’t have an issue with clowns personally but, the way that they are portrayed and utilised in the horror genre is completely messed up. These professional joy-bringers and mirth-makers are anything but. Here they are smiling, maniacal murderers and torturers, both mentally and physically, of children. IT has a lot to answer for and Tim Curry and, more latterly, Bill Skarsgård have both shown that the friendly, laughing clown is anything but. All that face paint is hiding something far more sinister. Add on top of this the clown doll from Poltergeist (messed me up for a long time when I first saw that scene) and the Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Roll up, roll up……. Not on your life!
Next we have…….. dolls
There has been a resurgence of this lately, mostly due to the Annabelle offshoot of The Conjuring franchise. Initially it was a ragdoll that was supposedly possessed, the choice to change it to an eternally open-eyed little girl doll is a great choice, even if the outcome is that much more effective. The original Annabelle film wasn’t the best but the follow-up prequel film Creation (I know that statement doesn’t make much sense) had a great aura around it and dug deeper into the genesis of the doll, which was great for me and not so great for those that are totally creeped out by this doll. Child’s Play is probably the film that kick-started this all for me: A slasher film centred around a possessed Chucky doll is genius and a ripe area for the plucking. Multiple sequels (that I haven’t seen) were spawned off the back of the original, creepy, abusive little ugly doll. Poltergeist gets another mention in this section due to the aforementioned clown doll (although it does get its comeuppance. Yey!).
Thinking about it the whole doll thing is related, in a vague kind of way, to the fear of children (creepy children, not the normal kind) that has been so effective in the J-Horror scene (Ringu, Ju-on, Dark Water) that has subsequently spilled over into the Western mentality (due to their remakes). Small people doing things they really shouldn’t = scary to adults!
Lastly, but not leastly,……….. Woods. No, Books. Definitely Books
The original evil book, in my mind at least, is the version of the Book of the Dead/Necronomicon from The Evil Dead. A book, so scary and powerful, that it can bring things back from the dead or turn them into nasty, horrible monsters, amongst other things. Chaos ensues from the reading of this book and turns everything into a fight for survival. Moving on slightly, the same premise is used in Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods, although this tongue-in-cheek film is no doubt riffing on the tropes that The Evil Dead lays down. In 2014 we had another book rear its ugly, horrific head in Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. Once again, the reading of the book brings about a demonic entity that works its way into the sanctity of their house and messes with their sanity and creates a truly unsettling atmosphere.
Moving on slightly from the actual books to focus a little on the writer and the effect their books have bring me to In the Mouth of Madness. John Carpenter’s film focusses more on the after-effects of reading the writers work but is fantastic in weaving an unnerving and reality-destroying story. And, if we are talking about writers then I have to mention Misery and The Shining: Two of Stephen King’s best books that have been translated extremely well onto the silver screen with no small amount of fear and terror.
What things have horror films ruined for you and which films were responsible?